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August 02, 2012 --- Vol. 18, No. 55August 2012

Shell vessels set out for Chukchi as Shell scales back drilling plan

The Aiviq, Shell’s new ice-capable anchor handler, and the Fennica, the icebreaker carrying the company’s new well capping stack, have departed north from Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands in preparation for the start of drilling in the Chukchi Sea, Shell spokesman Curtis Smith told Petroleum News today. The icebreaker Tor Viking will also head north from Dutch Harbor within the next 24 to 36 hours, Smith said.

Following a request from local communities, the Aiviq and the Fennica will deploy buoys in the Bering Strait on their way north, to monitor the acoustic footprint of the rest of the Shell fleet, as the fleet transitions towards Shell’s Chukchi Sea leases, Smith said.

Because of a delayed start to its drilling program, Shell has now scaled back its drilling plans to two wells, one in the Burger prospect in the Chukchi Sea and one in the Sivulliq prospect in the Beaufort Sea, Smith said. The company had hoped to drill up to three wells in the Chukchi Sea and up to two wells in the Beaufort Sea.

“We have recalibrated our expectations, based on the persistent ice and the construction issues that we’re having with the containment barge,” Smith said, referring to exceptionally heavy sea ice in the Chukchi Sea and delays in the deployment from Seattle of the barge Arctic Challenger.

However, in addition to completing two wells this year, the company now plans to drill the top-hole sections of some other wells, in preparation for drilling next year.

Shell will view the reduced program as a success, given valuable subsurface data that it will glean from the completed wells and the way in which the top holes will put the company ahead for its 2013 drilling program, Smith said.

– Alan Bailey

See full story in August 5 issue, available online at 11 a.m. Friday, August 3, at www.PetroleumNews.com

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